It came up in an interview, chicken soup. We had discussed the job and were conversing comfortably and, somehow, this chicken soup thing came up. They asked what I thought my forte might be and I obliged that I needed a little chaos in my life. I’d elected to pursue adventure while young so I could still enjoy the effort, and now sought something rather sedate and comfortable in keeping with the dwindling excitement in my life. We toured the place, a grand great room for those whose job it was to create, and a rather elegantly-appointed office with a sliding smoky glass door to keep out the noise of business. I was introduced, shook a few hands, refused coffee and was ready to depart when chicken soup came up.
I’ve been tinkering with the idea of going back to work. The pay in this region is not up to the bar set elsewhere in the state, and I’ve accepted that as a sorry fact of life here. When I’m asked where I see myself in five years, the standard answer is “in my garden.” I passed the half-century mark a few years ago and, frankly, it’s amusing to me that somebody would even ask that. Fine for the 22-year-old, but do I look like I’m in career mode? I have a rather arrogant answer for that other gem, “What are your weaknesses?” I just grin and tell them I don’t dwell on them so can’t remember what they are – I’ve gotten along just fine without burning the house down or breaking the bank. Some business folk have a sense of humor and others do not.
I can’t say I appreciate when a 30-year-old reminds me I’ve a lengthy work history. I’m tempted to remind the little twit I’m probably older than her mother, could do her job with one hand or both tied behind my back, and my experience is likely something she’ll never take the opportunity to enjoy. But I don’t; I smile and agree, and decline further interest no matter what the pay.
Am I too old to beat the pavement? Do I have a bad attitude? Is there no appreciation for experience and diversity, or do all the young folks expect us old farts to be career experts who’ve come through the same door for forty years to collect a paycheck? Maybe it’s just me. I’ve done a lot in my life. I’ve fished commercially, hunted for my winter food, trapped for a few dollars, and battled the elements to survive. I’ve loaded jets, worked underground in a mine, and covered the body of an unfortunate soul in the middle of the road, standing alongside until he could be transported to a place where he’d be cleaned up, dressed, and sent off to his loved ones. I’ve helped the intoxicated, bandaged the injured, warmed exposure victims, and I’ve been credited with enough wherewithall to judge and train life-saving personnel to go out and put broken folks back together. But you can’t put that all on paper. At least not on the one page resume you’re supposed to describe your work life on.
Kids. I’ve raised my own and fostered some others. My fingerprints are on record for banking, foster parenting, life-saving, police and emergency services dispatching, and I’m considered one of the “good guys” because I volunteer them in conjunction with my concealed carry permit. My credit has taken a hit or two, but I still manage to pay my bills on time. I’ve lived. Not a short life, not yet a long one, but it’s been full and satisfying and I’m beginning to resent the implication that I ought to justify the choices I’ve made along the way. No apologies; I’m not going to do that.
I did a temp job once, was sent over by the state job office since they knew me from supervising and requesting help for my office. At the time, I was working for an airline and had some odd hours to fill, so I agreed to a short term commitment. As it turned out, the job was more than a temporary gig and the interview was a solid investigation of my skills and abilities. The five of us sat in a small office, windows open to the waterfront below, door closed to the reception area. By small, I mean a desk with one person behind and four of us stacked around it in hard-back chairs, knees almost touching. It was close. Walking in, I noticed something odd but dismissed it once the conversation began in earnest, but as we all relaxed I noticed it had permeated the room. We’d discussed the nature of the work, the hours, and the fact the building contained asbestos. Not being familiar with the odor of asbestos, if indeed it had any, I inquired as to what the strange smell was. Instantly, everyone straight-faced me and innocently asked, “what smell?” I told them I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but it smelled like Mrs. Grass’s dry chicken soup mix; was that what asbestos smelled like? Snickers and outright laughter; knee-slapping, elbow-jabbing, gasping, guffaws was their response. “Chicken soup! Did you hear that, Charles?! It smells like chicken soup!” and more laughter. Charles smiled benignly and nodded. One of them caught their breath, finally, and said, “It’s not chicken soup, it’s Charles; his wife doesn’t let him wear deodorant.” And more laughter.
Believe it or not, I got that job and I’ve always figured if I could ask an innocent question like that and land a pretty good 9-5’er, I wasn’t doing too badly in the scheme of things. Today, when an interview comment jogged my memory and prompted me to recall the story, the first response was, “Did you get the job after that?!” For some reason, they loved the story and said it should go down in the annals of interview history, but I just figured I had nothing to lose after a score like that. After all, not every day is a chicken soup kind of day.